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33rd Fighter Wing hosts Aircrew Performance Conference

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Christian Corley
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

The Aircrew Performance Conference was held in Fort Walton Beach, Fl., June 26–30. The conference aimed to standardize the use of two programs: comprehensive readiness for aircrew flying training, CRAFT, and optimizing the human weapon system, OHWS.  


“OHWS was started in 2019 after an Air Force fighter task force got together and determined that neck and back pain were leading to decreased ability to retain fighter pilots and weapon systems officers,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Stephanie Chayrez, the program director for CRAFT/OWHS aviator performance, 33rd Operations Support Squadron. “CRAFT focuses on student learning at undergraduate flying training and is intended to increase the pilot performance of all aviators.” 


OHWS was originally funded to serve Combat Air Forces’ assets while CRAFT was funded for Air Education and Training Command.  


“The 33rd Fighter Wing’s CRAFT/OHWS aviator performance team is unique in that it encompasses both AETC CRAFT assets and OHWS assets to meet the needs of AETC’s F-35 student production,” said Chayrez. “While we are one of the newest programs to introduce student training, we have been fortunate enough to have leadership that has approved us to elevate the curriculum.” 


The programs have been infused with the flying training curriculum. 


“In the academic phase of the F-35 basic course, the student pilots will train with strength and conditioning, aerospace physical therapy and cognitive performance specialists three times per week,” said Chayrez. “Our strength and conditioning coaches and aerospace physical therapists are able to then program physical training so we never see a 20% decrease or a 30% increase in training that could lead to decreased performance in the cockpit and/or injury.” 


The 33rd FW is the first to continue these aspects into the flying phase of training.  


“The 33rd FW is on the edge of developing the tools, knowledge and culture required to optimize human performance in the next generation of warfare,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Jordan Grant, vice commander of the 33rd FW. “We saw at the conference that leaders from around the Air Force are just as hungry as we are to maximize human performance in the cockpit and the battlefield.” 


Many organizations and subject matter experts were consulted to ensure the creation of the best curriculum possible. 


“When we started to build this curriculum at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, we made sure to team up with human performance research labs, universities, our tactical level subject matter experts and our aviators to ensure that our testing components and training content were relevant to the community at large, regardless of where anyone was within the aircrew lifecycle,” said Chayrez. 


In the past, programs like CRAFT/OHWS did not exist. These programs now take into account the needs of the fighter pilot community.  


“For our older and more experienced pilots like myself, the CRAFT program is keeping our pilots performing at the highest levels, or in some cases, returning pilots to that high level after years of toll on the body,” said Grant. “For our youngest pilots, the students just starting their fighter careers, we are providing them the tools to be better than my generation ever was and to maintain that edge for far longer.” 


There are currently 47 CRAFT/OHWS programs all over the world, and the aircrew performance conference aimed to help expand and align the program with even more units and organizations. 


“We aim to increase the performance, lethality and longevity of our aviators,” said Chayrez. “The 33rd FW is very special as it is the first unit to be tasked with providing a proof of concept of these programs working together on one military installation to meet the needs of three separate MAJCOMS.” 


CRAFT/OHWS meets Air Force priorities by increasing the product of pilot production helping to increase retention.  


“I’m super proud of the Nomads that are breaking new ground and leading the way,” said Grant. “We have so much more we can do, and the sky is truly the limit.”